Michael Douglas is speaking on TODAY for the first time since his son Cameron was sentenced to five years in prison for heroin possession and conspiring to sell crystal meth.
In an exclusive interview with Matt Lauer, Douglas addresses claims that Cameron’s sentence, which also includes five years of supervised release, reflected special celebrity treatment.
“I don’t think a lot of people said (that Cameron received a celebrity sentence),” Douglas told Lauer. “One particular newspaper here in New York was pretty mean-spirited and vindictive about the whole process.”
But the situation was indeed a dire one.
“Look, my son was a drug dealer and he’s been trying to kill himself for a while and I can’t condone his behavior,” Douglas said. “So I think the court recognized his drug addiction as well as the crime he committed and (the sentence) is an adequate amount of time … and the best part of it is he will be able to start his life afresh.”
Before sentencing, Judge Richard Berman received letters in support of Cameron from Michael, Cameron’s mother Diandra, and Douglas’ current wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones. Portions of those letters were publicized — something Michael Douglas said was never supposed to happen. He believes the publicity might have put the judge in a difficult position.
“The fact that the letters were published was not what we understood (would happen). We believed that they were personal letters to the judge that were to be sealed,” Douglas said. “The fact is, with all the mistakes and the disease that Cameron has, he’s a great young man and I wouldn’t be supporting him if I didn’t feel that way. So yes, I think the judge was put in a difficult position.”
Going from bad father to good
Douglas’ parenting was taken to task in his ex-wife Diandra’s letter to the judge, and he was quick to admit that by some definitions, he was a bad father.
“I’ve taken blame about being a bad father — if being a bad father is working your butt off trying to create a career at one time,” Douglas said. “I've also confessed the fact that I was in rehab 20 years ago. So we had that issue, and as far as his mother was concerned, she was a very young mother when she had Cameron, and her skills were limited to such an extent. The other part, of course, is genes. I lost a brother with an overdose four years ago. I have another brother who has been on the program for years. My ex-wife’s family has alcoholism running in it, so you have that part, and then you finally end up with who you choose to hang out with. In Cameron's position, he took a lot of lowlifes and he was a very attractive target to hang out with, and I don’t think that helped, either. ... I’m willing to take the hit.”
Douglas, who has two children with Zeta-Jones, told Lauer that he’s completely changed his parenting style with Dylan, 9, and Carys, 7.
The biggest change? “Priorities,” said Douglas. “When I had Cameron I was early in my career and as opposed to most jobs, making movies takes you all around the world, so you were absentee in that sense. You were away sometimes working hard. We chose for a large part of our marriage not to be living in Los Angeles but be living outside, so you had to travel ... my priorities have completely changed. My marriage and my families come certainly before my career.”
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints